BOSTON (AP) -- Derek Lowe's 16 wins are the most in the AL, but
this one was special.
Lowe beat Oakland ace Barry Zito, stopped Boston's two-game
losing streak with a 4-2 win Thursday night and showed, in his
first full season as a starter, that he can win a big game. Lowe (16-5) struck out six and allowed five hits and one walk in
seven innings as the Red Sox moved a half-game behind Anaheim in
the wild-card race. Oakland trails by 1½ games. "This is the first game, in my little short starting career,
that I felt I had to win and it is the first time I ever put that
pressure on myself,'' Lowe said. But catcher Jason Varitek didn't see much difference from Lowe's
other games this year. "He seemed pretty much the same to me. He seemed as focused as
he's been,'' Varitek said. The matchup of two of the AL's three pitchers with 15 wins met
expectations as Lowe threw a season-high 114 pitches and Zito
(15-5) gave up seven hits in his first complete game of the year.
Boston's Pedro Martinez is 15-2. Curt Schilling of Arizona leads
the majors with 18 wins. "It was a heavyweight battle,'' said Oakland's Scott Hatteberg,
who spent the past five seasons with Boston, sometimes catching
Lowe. "He's unbelievable and I can't stand facing him.''
The A's did something that none of Lowe's three previous
opponents managed to do. They scored against the majors' ERA
leader, who lowered his mark from 2.13 to 2.09.
Miguel Tejada's solo homer in the sixth made the score 3-1, and
ended Lowe's scoreless streak at 29 2/3 innings, longest in the
majors this season and the longest since Greg Maddux's 39 1/3
innings in September 2000. This year's previous longest streak was
27 innings by Mark Guthrie of the New York Mets. "He was able to really settle back down after the home run.
That kind of bothered him a little bit,'' Varitek said. And it proved a point. "I knew people were saying, 'Can he pitch the so-called big
game?''' Lowe said. "All in all, it was a big win.'' Lowe's streak might still be intact if he had stuck with his
outstanding sinkerball. Instead, he left a curveball over the plate
on an 0-2 pitch to Tejada, who hit his 26th homer of the year. Of Lowe's 21 outs, only one reached the outfield. He got 12 outs
on grounders, six on strikeouts and two on popups to shortstop
Nomar Garciaparra and Varitek. "He was downstairs all day long,'' Oakland manager Art Howe
said. "Their infield is solid and they made the plays behind
him.'' Bobby Howry pitched a perfect eighth and Ugueth Urbina got his
26th save despite allowing a solo homer to David Justice. Zito lost his second straight start after going 11-1 in his
previous 13. "You love to pitch in a game you know will be low-scoring,'' he
said. "If I made the pitches tonight, the outcome would have been
different.'' The Red Sox went ahead 1-0 in the second on a walk to Manny
Ramirez, a single by Cliff Floyd and a sacrifice fly by Varitek.
They made it 3-0 in the fifth when a leadoff walk to Rey Sanchez
and a double by Johnny Damon put runners on second and third. Trot
Nixon hit a sacrifice fly for the first out and Garciaparra
followed with a single for his 92nd RBI. In the eighth, Floyd hit his first homer since being obtained
last week from Montreal and 22nd of the season. "I can go home and relax instead of going home and not
sleeping,'' said Floyd, who went 0-for-6 in his first two games
with Boston at Fenway Park. Lowe retired the first four batters on three grounders and a
strikeout before Eric Chavez singled in the second. Terrence Long
singled before Lowe ended the threat by striking out Greg Myers. The former closer allowed singles to Ray Durham and Tejada in
the third then retired eight straight batters before Tejada's homer
over the left-field wall. Justice then walked, but Lowe ended the inning by striking out
the next two hitters. Zito worked out of several jams. In the second, he retired the next two batters after Boston put
runners at first and second with one out. In the third, he got
Floyd to ground into an inning-ending double play.
And in the fifth, with Garciaparra at first and one out, he got
Ramirez and Floyd, the fourth and fifth hitters, to fly out.
Garciaparra struck out in four consecutive at bats before
his RBI single in the fifth. ... Floyd's single in the second was
his first hit at Fenway Park with Boston. He is 7-for-13 on the
road since being obtained from Montreal last week. ... CF Long was
booed on several at bats. His catch of Ramirez's drive that cleared
the low fence in right-center robbed Ramirez of a three-run homer
that ended Wednesday's 3-2 Oakland win instead of winning to for